03 Jul 2020

Pickett’s Charge

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Today is the 157th Anniversary of the Third Day of the decisive Battle of Gettysburg.


Crossing the Emmitsburg Road


“Give them cold steel.” — Brigadier General Lewis Armistead (February 18, 1817–July 3, 1863)



“Dr. Joseph Hold of the 11th Mississippi, Davis’ brigade, anticipated that the afternoon would be busy and set up his dressing station early in a shelter behind Seminary Ridge. . .When the cannonade opened and the Federals’ guns replied, stretcher bearers, crouching low, began bringing in the wounded. Among the first was an athletic young man with reddish golden hair, “a princely fellow,” the doctor called him, with a calm manner and a delightful smile, one of that gay, turbulent company that had left with the University Greys of Oxford to form Company A of the 11th Mississippi.

“The physician examined the left arm, cut off at the elbow, and offered encouragement.

“‘Why, doctor, that isn’t where I am hurt.’ The boy pulled back a blanket and showed where a shell had ripped deep across his abdomen, carrying away much that was vital. ‘I am in great agony,’ he said, still smiling. ‘Let me die easy, dear doctor.’

“But before the lad had drunk the cup containing the concentrated solution of opium, the doctor held up his right arm so he could write: ‘My dear mother. . .Remember that I am true to my country and my regret at dying is that she is not free. . .you must not regret that my body cannot be obtained. It is a mere matter of form anyhow. . .Send my dying release to Miss Mary. . .’ He signed, JERE S. GAGE, Co. A, 11 Miss. By that time, the letter was covered with blood.

“Then he raised his cup to a group of soldiers. ‘I do not invite you to drink with me,’ he remarked wryly, then with fervor, ‘but I drink a toast to you, the Southern Confederacy, and to victory’

* * *

“Then Pickett stood in front of his division and gave the final word ‘Charge the enemy and remember old Virginia.’ His voice was clear and strong as he spoke the order: ‘Forward! Guide center! March’ . . .

“‘I don’t want to make this charge,’ Longstreet declared emphatically. ‘I don’t believe it can succeed. I would stop Pickett now, but that General Lee has ordered it and expects it.’

“Further remarks showed he wanted some excuse for calling off the whole attack.

“But Longstreet and Alexander had lost control. As they talked, the turf trembled about them and the long line of grey infantry broke from the woods. First came Garnett’s Virginians, the general in front, his old blue overcoat buttoned tightly around his neck. Abreast was Kemper’s trim line marching majestically into the open fields, the fifes piping ‘Dixie,’ the ranks in nearly perfect alignment. Far to the left could be heard the drum rolls of the Carolina regiments – Pettigrew and Trimble were in motion. The hour of the generals had passed. The infantrymen from the Richmond offices and Pearisburg farmlands, the ‘greys’ from the halls of ‘Old Miss’ and the ‘flower of the Cape Fear section,’ had taken the Confederate cause into their hands.

* * *

“The assaulting column consisted of 41 regiments and one battalion. . .Nineteen of the regiments were from Virginia, 15 from North Carolina, 3 each from Tennessee and Mississippi, and one regiment and one battalion from Alabama.

* * *

“Garnett, with a big voice issuing from his frail body, road ahead of his line regulating the pace, admonishing his men not to move too rapidly. From the skirmish line, Captain Shotwell obtained one of the rare views of the Confederate advance: the ‘glittering forest of bright bayonets,’ the column coming down the slope ‘in superb alignment,’ the ‘murmur and jingle’ and ‘rustle of thousands of feet amid the stubble’ which stirred up a cloud of dust ‘like the dash of spray at the prow of a vessel.’

“In front of Pickett flew the blue banner of the Old Dominion with the motto, ‘Sic semper Tyrannis,’ and the Stars and Bars of the Confederacy (the red battle flag with its blue cross not yet being in general use). The regimental flags flapped. A soft warm wind was blowing from the land they loved.”

–Glenn Tucker, “High Tide at Gettysburg.”

5 Feedbacks on "Pickett’s Charge"


A terrible failure in leadership. Lee lost the war right there and should have sued for peace on reasonable terms. It would have saved a lot of lives, a lot of families a lot of small farms and a lot of Southern culture. But no! So the nation endured almost two more years of war and the South was destroyed, families destroyed and the terrible aftermath of the war took away what little was left.

A terrible failure in leadership!


The story of Jere S. Gage left me in tears.

Somehow, writing a letter just sounds more appropriate than texting home.


I imagine the “gave a damn” America lasted another hundred years or about.

Tell me how wrong I am.


I am but a “DamnedYankee”; she, a daughter of the Old Dominion, sensitive to any slight against the great General, however we both came to agree that “Mars Robt’s” considerable talents might have served better in the political search for an alternative solution to the hostility between the Yankee North and the Southern States.


Listen to Larry Sparks’s “Last Day of Gettysburg.”

The gray smoke from the battle
Rollin’ over the hill.
The fires, the dead, the dying
Are in my memory ever still.
Oh, can’t you hear,
Hear that angel band
Singing, “Come home, soldier,
To the Promised Land.”
Longstreet, he stole away and cried
When Lee gave him the orders to attack.
In his mind’s eye he could see
That most of his boys would not be back.
Oh, can’t you hear,
Hear that angel band
Singing, “Come home, soldier,
To the Promised Land.”
Willy Johnson and me,
Rebel soldiers both from Tennessee.
Willy, he’s lyin’ by my side –
Spoke these words to me, and then he died:
Oh, can’t you hear,
Hear that angel band
Singing, “Come home, soldier,
To the Promised Land.”


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